Obama chides Dems opposed to trade deal
WASHINGTON — President Obama hit back at fellow Democrats who oppose his trade initiatives Tuesday, saying they have their facts wrong on the eve of a key Senate vote.
The president’s blunt remarks were made as liberals, labor unions and others stepped up efforts to block his trade proposals, which they say hurt U.S. jobs.
“I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class,” Obama said in an interview with MSNBC. “When you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”
Asked particularly about criticisms from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Obama said: “I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this.”
But several top Democrats aren’t backing down. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told reporters, “I’m not only no, I’m hell no” on Obama’s bid for “fast-track” authority.
The Senate Finance Committee plans to vote Wednesday on the fast-track measure. It would renew presidential authority to send Congress trade deals it can endorse or reject, but not amend.
One such proposed pact is the long-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership, involving the United States and 11 other nations.
Few issues divide Democrats more than trade. Obama, like former President Bill Clinton, supports free trade, but most Democratic lawmakers do not.
Republicans generally support trade pacts. But Obama can’t count on them alone to push the fiercely debated bills through the GOP-controlled House and Senate.
Clinton’s and Obama’s trade stands — and liberal groups’ opposition — pose a dilemma for Hillary Clinton, the former first lady seeking the presidency. Campaigning Tuesday in New Hampshire, she declined to say whether she supports the Pacific Rim proposal.
“We need to build things, too,” Clinton said, taking a pro-manufacturing stance generally embraced by both parties. “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive,” she said, while getting back to “a much more focused effort, in my opinion, to try to produce those capacities here at home.”